These days, people with low vision have more and more material to read. As our population of senior citizens grows, information previously available only in small print is now commonly prepared in large print. We need to pay attention to how we format material, whether in hard copy or electronic media, to give readers with low vision optimum comfort and greater efficiency.
Studies by Drs. Mansfield, Legge, and Bane at the University of Minnesota show that certain fonts provide significant advantages to readers who have low vision, as well as to those with normal vision. These researchers tested readers using fixed-width fonts, variable-width fonts (proportional), serif (with tails and curlicues) and sans serif fonts to see how they affected reading speeds and acuities. They found that people with low vision had higher reading speeds and better reading acuities when they used sans serif fonts with fixed width. Although differences in speed and acuities were smaller than for the low-vision group, they found the same to be true for readers with normal vision. They concluded that "choice of font could make a significant difference in both normal and low-vision reading performance."1
When you prepare material, you can enhance reading performance by observing a few simple rules. These rules hold true for both people with low vision and those with normal vision. The benefits may be appreciated more by low-vision readers. These rules are:
- Employ fonts without serifs (APHont, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica).
- Employ fonts with a fixed width (APHont, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica).
- Use bold letters whenever possible.
- Use APHont, Verdana, Arial, or Helvetica as the default font in electronic media.
- Be sure to provide good contrast between the background color and the print color. (Black on white is good, but for many readers white on black--or yellow on black is better.)
- Make sure the print size is large enough for your reader to use comfortably.
Fancy fonts and italics may look attractive to you. For the reader with low vision, however, they can be confusing and sometimes impossible to read. When preparing materials for readers with low vision, a simple rule of thumb is: the simpler, the bolder, the better.
1 Mansfield, J. Stephen, Gordon E Legge, and Marc C. Bane. "Psychophysics of reading. XV. Font effects in normal and low vision." Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. July, 1996.
This article by Elaine Kitchel was reprinted from Technology Update 14 (Fall-Winter 1998): 29-30. Updated 8/2002 (APHont added)
APHont: A Font for Low Vision
APHont (pronounced Ay'-font), was developed by APH specifically for low vision readers.
APHont embodies characteristics that have been shown to enhance reading speed, comprehension, and comfort for large print readers. The entire APHont Suite (Regular, Bold, Italic, and Italic Bold) is available free-of-charge on the APH web site.
- Higher crossbars.
- No serifs.
- Wider letters.
- Heavier letters.
- Letters more open
- Larger punctuation marks.
How to Request APHont
Before downloading APHont, users must validate that APHont will be used by or for visually impaired persons. Visit www.aph.org/products/aphont.html to fill out a short verification form. You will then be able to download the font.
APHont for Web Pages
APHont can and has been used on web pages. But there are a couple of issues to examine.
- If APHont is not already stored on the viewer's computer in the font files folder, the web page will appear in whatever font is their default font.
- APHont is available free to persons who have visual impairments, or those persons serving and preparing documents for them. If other people happen to use the font in that process, for instance if you prepared a document in APHont for an audience that included people with visual impairments and other people with or without other disabilities used the document as well, that would be a fair use of the font.
- APHont is available from our website, after the downloader certifies that he/she has a legitimate use for the font. But the font available there is for PC only.
If a Mac user needs to use the font, they must contact me directly by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send the Mac version. There is no warranty of correct performance with the Mac version because we did not make the Mac font. Click this link for instructions on using APHont on a Mac.
- Because APHont is a large format font, it looks best at sizes of 14 points and larger.
You can download the font from here: http://www.aph.org/products/aphont.html.
APHont embodies all the features that have been proven, through science and testing, to be helpful to persons with visual impairments. Other fonts that are very acceptable for low vision audiences are Verdana and Antique Olive. Many people think Arial is acceptable because it is a font without serifs, but it is not a good one because the letters are far too close together.